An Experience Without Walls Transmitting the Joe Henderson Lab

On The Corner Masthead


December 1, 2022 | by Marcus Crowder

Myra Melford and Mary Halvorson in the Joe Henderson Lab, broadcast on 12/9 (photo by Don Dixon)

On December 9 we broadcast composer and piano great Myra Melford's concert with her Fire and Water Quintet on Fridays Live, filmed November 6 in the Joe Henderson Lab at the SFJAZZ Center. Guest writer and journalist Marcus Crowder takes a closer look at the concert and the uniquely intimate quality of concerts in the JHL, which like SFJAZZ At Home, is designed to break down barriers between artist and audience to bring you as close to the music as possible. 

The moment we see the empty stage nestled with the resting instruments we also see the darkened street behind the stage through the tall glass walls. We are in the Joe Henderson Lab at SFJAZZ in the heightened moments just before pianist composer Myra Melford’s new quintet Fire and Ice take the stage. Cars move back and forth outside the performance space as their bright white headlights and glistening red tail lights punctuate the night.

The anticipation crests into applause as Melford and her bandmates wade through the crowd and finally reach their instruments on stage. Then, suddenly, we are just behind and to the side of Melford, looking across the piano at her bandmates — guitarist Mary Halvorson and saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock. As Melford begins hunting her opening notes we feel one the great strengths of the video series SFJAZZ at Home — the organic intimacy of the presentation. It feels as if we are there.

“It's really a unique space to perform in for several reasons,” Melford told me. “The primary one is that it's a glass cube. The glass on two sides is looking out towards the street, and the other one is looking into the lobby. That's a really unique space.” Melford’s performance with Fire & Water Quintet will be broadcast on Dec. 9 on SFJAZZ At Home's Fridays Live series.

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